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New University and Vegan Society research reveals importance of a plant-based food system

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Published on 09 July 2021

Vegan Society
Vegan Society

New research conducted by the University of Sunderland and published today by The Vegan Society is highlighting the importance of a plant-based food system.

Planting Value in our Food System presents a vision for a fully plant-based food system with the ability to help achieve climate targets, reduce the impact on our health service, improve the experiences of farmers and farm workers, and ultimately save the lives of thousands of animals. 

The report was written by Dr Alex Lockwood, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sunderland, in consultation with The Vegan Society policy team.

It consists of two parts, the first proposes far reaching new legislation to put our food system on a different path, and the second contains extensive research which these proposals are based on. The research draws on current ideas and research in the area of food policy as well as dozens of hours of interviews with people working in many aspects of UK food including farm owners and workers, environmental groups, health professionals, policy experts and food suppliers.

Through this project, The Vegan Society have looked at the food system from different perspectives and it challenges others to view it from theirs.

In its opening, the report acknowledges that to achieve a fairer food system that works for everyone, deep-rooted changes must be made at every level. It states the importance of a food policy with social values embedded within it and argues for a unifying vision for the food system with coherent linkages with economics, health, and environment policy through new governance mechanisms.

 It also stresses that food policy needs to improve the experiences of farmers and food producers as well as the importance of respecting the rights and freedoms of animals.

 The report proposes two major pieces of legislation:

  •          A Food Sustainability Bill which proposes new legally binding targets for government in a range of areas such as health, food poverty and climate justice. These would include targets to reduce consumption of animal products, putting the UK on a course to remove animals from the food system. This Bill would also mandate the formation of a National Food Sustainability Council to oversee the principles and targets needed to overhaul the current food system. It suggests this Council could be the ‘new independent body’ described in Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy Part 1.


  •          A Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill, to align the rest of the UK with Wales and go further, enabling the UK to act on sustainable development, environment, food, land use, climate and health in terms of future needs.


Louise Davies, CEO of The Vegan Society, said: “Through this significant piece of research, we have found extensive common ground around human health, food sustainability and affordability, social justice issues and our relationship with non-human animals.  We all need food systems which will improve our health and working conditions, as well as benefit our society and natural environment for the long term. We need a Great Food Transformation.”

“Without coordinated improvements at every level and in every aspect of our food systems, we will struggle to meet our social, health and climate change goals. The changes needed will help the UK to take proper responsibility for meeting our own needs within our fair share of global resources, whilst still trading equitably for what we cannot produce ourselves.” 

Dr Alex Lockwood, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sunderland specialising in plant-based food policy, added: “Almost everyone involved in food and farming across the UK accepts that significant transformation is necessary if we are to have a food system fit for the future. Food poverty, insecurity, low paid jobs and disastrous environmental impacts all flow from the system we currently have—an animal-based agriculture that is out of date.

"If starting from a blank sheet of paper, no one would design the system we currently have, and certainly not those who love animals.

“The pandemic, most likely caused by our exploitation of animals for food, has only hastened the need for these changes. For the health of everyone—human and animal—we need rapid, sustained change. I hope my contribution in this report, speaking to farmers, food policy experts, growers and those who care about the land, helps us move towards those changes in time to meet our climate and environmental commitments, and to reduce the suffering of the animals currently trapped in an inefficient and unsafe system.”

Other recommendations included within the report are a Food System Risk Assessment process, plant-based meals and dishes becoming the default option on all menus in public and private sector organisations, and a Plant-Based Transition Commissioner to oversee the necessary interlinked social, cultural and economic shifts towards a fair, sustainable, plant-based food system. 

 To read Planting Value in our Food Systemin full please visit:www.plantingvalueinfood.org  

 On 20 July the Vegan Society’s Louise Davies will hold a Q&A on Planting Value in our Food System on Facebook Live with Dr Alex Lockwood.